How a town in South Wales said no to fascism – and yes to Welsh cakes

- 29 03 23

The residents of Llantwit Major successfully stood up to the dangerous activism of Patriotic Alternative over the weekend. They also showed up in style, with one resident dressing up as a giant Welsh cake as part of a “Big Welsh Cake Welcome”.

Residents of Llantwit gather in defiance of Patriotic Alternative leafleting in the town. Credit: BBC News
Residents of Llantwit gather in defiance of Patriotic Alternative leafleting in the town. Credit: BBC News

Llantwit rose to the challenge of seeing off the planned anti-migrant demonstration and pulled off a full 24 hours of coordinated community response events, all with the core message showing how welcoming their community is and opposing racism of any kind. Locals came in full force, with reports that there were ten defiant members of the community for every far-right demonstrator. 

The crux of the issue was the bid to turn a site on Eagleswell Road in Llantwit into temporary housing for asylum seekers. Many residents had hoped the site would be used for a new healthcare centre. However, residents were able to overcome their differences and stand together against PA and anti-migrant sentiment. There are a number of reasons why Llantwit’s community response was a success from start to finish:

  1. In-depth understanding of the local threat

Following the leafleting of Llantwit Major by Patriotic Alternative, the organisers of Llantwit Against Racism informed themselves about the actions, tactics and messaging of the group. They created a website which clearly outlined the positions of PA and its members, with the help of HOPE not hate blog posts and reports. Most importantly, they grounded this research in the local context: they explained why PA were weaponising the controversy around the Eagleswell Road site and they acknowledged local concerns rather than dismissing them. This helped the community to make an informed choice of which side they wanted to be on, reducing the potential for the leaflets to cause harm.

  1. Strong, clear counter-messaging

The messaging around the event was careful not to label all of those who had concerns about the use of the Eagleswell Road site as “fascists” or “far-right”. Rather than focussing on the specifics of PA or getting into the nitty-gritty of migration policy, the organisers of the campaign chose to focus on a general message of peace and welcome. Organisers drew on the positivity of the community and championed their ability to overcome situations of adversity. This was effective because the message transcended individual opinions about the use of the site or politics in general, and became about the identity of the town and how it wanted to be seen. The organisers also managed to compile a cross-party statement of support for the event, which helped to de-politicise the narrative.

Llantwit Major AFC played against Afan Lido FC for the Show Racism the Red Card football match. Credit: Llantwit Major AFC on Facebook
  1. Involving different strands of the community

What made the Llantwit event so special was the decision to go beyond a counter-demonstration. While well-organised counter-demonstrations can be effective, not everyone enjoys the environment and some might find the potential risk off-putting. The organisers made it clear from the beginning, both in messaging and in the nature of events organised, that everyone in the community was welcome to attend and support the 24 hours of action.

There were a number of events on offer:

  • An overnight vigil hosted in a church for interfaith reflection, music and readings aimed generally at “remembering victims of hatred and oppression” rather than only being focussed on recent events.
  • A football match featuring the local team, organised with the help of Show Racism the Red Card.
  • A “Welsh Cake Welcome” event with Welsh cakes being distributed freely in the town as a sign of local generosity and care.
  • A talk about the German philosopher Paul Tillich and his experience of being thrown out of Nazi Germany. Tillich was the subject of a successful conference in the town in October 2022.
  • Guided prayer and refreshments served at a local church which focused on the idea of Jesus as a refugee.

Any resident hoping to take some sort of action could find something that catered to them. With the smorgasbord on offer at Llantwit, the town ended up with something really unique that brought the community together.

A counter-protestor in Llantwit. Credit: Gareth Llewelyn Evans
A local man dressed as a Welsh cake. Credit: Llantwit Major AFC on Facebook
  1. Coordination of local press

Organisers were able to corral local media into covering the story because of the uniqueness of the events described above. It’s always helpful for the voices of dissent against the far-right to be amplified in the media, as it presents a viable alternative point of view that readers might not have previously considered. Journalists are often looking for an angle when it comes to positive news stories, and Llantwit managed to put the focus on the strength of their community response as opposed to on the far-right protesters. This served the interests of both parties: journalists were able to produce engaging and interesting news coverage and the town was represented in a positive light.

Llantwit Major serves as a source of inspiration for any individuals or organisations in communities where anti-migrant sentiment and far-right activism are brewing. In the words of the organisers: “the community’s overwhelming and positive response gave confidence to many that there is a way to come together that is rooted in kindness.”


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